Skip to main content
A Magazine for

The Manchester edition of Now Then is no longer publishing content. Visit the Sheffield edition.

Broken FM / Comet is Coming / Portico Quartet / Quietened Journey / Trendphazr

Broken FM / Comet is Coming / Portico Quartet / Quietened Journey / Trendphazr
809 1574850416

Various Artists - The Quietened Journey

The Quietened Journey explores abandoned railways and roads through music, each composition by a different artist. The resulting album is part of A Year In the Country, a fascinating artistic study of lost and mythical layers in our landscapes.

Maybe all routes strike similar arcs across time. They begin with pioneering bravery and glamourous adventure, then become assimilated into the everyday. Eventually they lose their purpose and dissolve into lost ways, ruins. You see this on muddy footpaths where ivy and buddleia are consuming once-proud stone gateposts and in the buckled old road at Mam Tor. It's harder to envision our current highways fading, but such a time will surely come.

What is left?

Several tracks harness the sounds of railways - wheels on tracks, the harmonic whistle of a steam locomotive. In my favourite track, 'Elm Grove' by The Séance, melodious strings and harpsichord are interrupted by the screech of a cornering train. These sounds jostle with a pastoral palette, footsteps on loose ground, hedgerow wildlife minding its own business.

It's hard to discern the particular places or experiences informing the music, but better to treat the album as a meditation on roots pushing up through routes. The train rhythms feel over-used, as rhythm is perhaps what abandoned routes crucially lack. But these motifs recede as the album progresses, leaving a sense of loss behind them.

What is left? We can't tell if the quietening is a comfortable process or not, but it is certainly more melancholic than bucolic.

Andrew Wood

Broken FM - Demon Core

Hailing from Sheffield, the techno trio Broken FM aren't your ordinary group. Producing music which is improvised makes replicating their debut album Demon Core very difficult in a live scenario. But this sense of uniqueness gives the group a real 'fear of missing out' factor, as going to see them in a live setting will almost certainly see the emergence of something special, given the talented nature of the three members.

The opening track, 'Waft & Warp', showcases the group's ability to explore different electronic genres in the space of eight minutes. Starting with a mixture of burgeoning ambient rhythms and organic synths, the longest track on the album sets the tone for the rest of the record, giving us a taste of the group's spontaneous machine music.

a magnificently diverse record

'Pale Blue Dot' displays the group's nineties deep space influences with a theme of hardcore beats and melodic, percussive sequences, while 'Allow' begins at a steadier pace and explores alternative ambient sounds with a deep and eerie final breakdown. 'Toast / Not Toast' delves into a merger of upbeat dance and distorted waves, progressing rapidly across six minutes.

Having been around for the best part of five years and being no strangers to the European electronic scene, Broken FM's debut is a magnificently diverse record, representing the output of three gifted musicians.

It's impossible not to appreciate music with this level of impulsiveness, complexity and heart-stopping vibrations.

Daniel Altherton

Portico Quartet - Memory Streams

Portico Quartet, an instrumental London-based band, have made it to their fifth album. Released in October, Memory Streams is top-notch and has a somewhat smoky, mystical flavour that defines the whole experience. The songs are predominantly deep and melancholic and you end up completely lost in your thoughts for its 45-minute runtime.

The record is a fabulous journey into the void, where there is nothing but the untold stories of a long-forgotten past. There's no guarantee that one might find something valuable in a place such as 'Memory Palace' anymore, to quote one of the track titles, but Portico Quartet grasp our hand and guide us there, giving us the key to give it a go.

a fabulous journey into the void

It's then up to us to decide whether we're willing to step inside and face the demons that we once buried deep down or turn around and lock the door for good. The modern instruments, such as the group's signature hang drum, are complemented with saxophone and conventional drums to create a unique, relaxing and at the same time thought-provoking mix of sounds.

'Signals in the Dusk', 'Gradient' and 'Offset' are great tracks that might be able to stand alone outside of the self-contained bubble that the album represents. Portico Quartet have released another mesmerising record that helps us explore the darkest yet so familiar parts of our mind. No matter what you are doing, we all will be getting there sooner or later.

Roland Sebestyén

Portico Quartet play The Leadmill on 26 February 2020.

trendphazr - Travelator Music

Self-described as "actionable and efficient electronica with a focus on achievable dancefloor outcomes", Sheffield-based trendphazr lives in the shadow cast by the despondent nostalgia of vaporwave. He melds that spirit with the sounds of 1950s muzak, forcing it through the heavy beats of modern dance. Travelator Music is the corporate yet danceable sausage spat out at the end.

Right from the off, dated jingles and pitch-shifted meditation guides introduce a sense of misplaced, non-specific nostalgia and heavy-handed optimism. Simplistic retro synths propel every track forward, with moments of harmonic oddness throughout putting you in the middle of a cursed radio advert or an over-zealous exercise video.

This is the next evolution of muzak

The pumping basslines of 'Hector's Executive Vest' and the endlessly hyping drums of 'Haptic Slaps' combine with a simple palette of fairly one-dimensional synths. Together, they conjure the enforced happiness that 'stimulus progression' muzak worked so hard to achieve in the 1950s. This uncanny corporate facade is married to inescapably banging beats, with rhythms from across techno and bass music. This is the modern form of muzak; to compete in today's world of short attention spans, the only way to entice people into proper synergy is to just straight-up slap.

As a listening experience, it's hard not to feel that Travelator Music is quite thin and ephemeral, verging on irritating. But with horrible titles like 'Five Point People Person' and 'Unending Cosmic Success', one assumes this is kind of the point. This is the next evolution of muzak. It's become sentient and worked its way up to middle management.

Richard Spencer

The Comet is Coming - The Afterlife

Now Then reviewed The Comet is Coming's second album, Trust in The Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery, earlier this year and this release is clearly made of the same cosmic dust as its predecessor. According to band member Danalogue, the trio made the tracks for both releases at the same time and this is quite apparent, as there is a real flow to the out-of-space jazz goodness.

Kicking off with the slow motion but incredibly powerful 'All That Matters is The Moments', it features euphoric lyrics from Joshua Idehen. This is hip hop poetry meets Sun Ra on the far side of Jupiter.

leaves you wanting

Next up is 'Dissolution', with sun-kissed synths and stuttering jazz breaks that showcase a sensitive and mature side of The Comet which is equally matched by the title track. Lazy yet tight, drum beats nurdle along a spiritual analogue stream that is enhanced beautifully by Shabaka Hutchings' saxophone.

'Lifeforce Part I and II' moves from the spaced-out Sunday morning ambient jazz vibe to a classy sax and bass-driven broken beat workout that is completely infectious. 'The Seven Planetary Heavens' brings the release back down to its mellow core with a rich and psychedelic finale, reverbs turned fully up before slowly fading away.

This 'mini album' leaves you wanting, so with any luck there will be more to The Afterlife than we've already been treated to.

Andy Tattersall